Learning to work in the creative and cultural sector: new spaces, pedagogies and expertise
The paper questions the link that policymakers assume exists between qualifications and access to employment in the creative and cultural (C&C) sector. It (i) identifies how labour market conditions in the C&C sector undermine this assumption and how the UK’s policy formation process inhibits education and training (E&T) actors from countering these labour market conditions, and (ii) demonstrates how non–government agencies –‘intermediary organisations’ – are creating new spaces to assist aspiring entrants to develop the requisite forms of ‘vocational practice’, ‘social capital’ and ‘‘moebius-strip’ (ie entrepreneurial) expertise to enter and succeed in the sector. It concludes by identifying a number of (i) new principles for the governance of the national E&T sector (ii) pedagogic strategies to facilitate ‘horizontal’ transitions into and within the C&C sector, and (iii) skill formation issues for all E&T stakeholders to address.
Keywords: employment, creativity, skills, education, knowledge, industry, culture, politics
The profile of the creative and cultural (C&C) sector has for a combination of economic, social and educational reasons, risen dramatically since New Labour came to power in 1997 (Bilton, 2007; Garnham, 2005; Hesmonhalgh, 2005). Economically, the sector has presented itself, and been perceived by ministers, as a paradigmatic example of the ‘information/knowledge-based’ industries which economic gurus assume will be the basis of nation states’ prosperity in the 21st Century (Porter and Ketas, 2003). Socially, the sector symbolizes the type of cultural diversity that New Labour’s quasi-social democratic project aspired to foster because it generates new cultural products and services and new culturally diverse audiences for those products and services (Guile, 2006). Educationally, an increasing number of young people aspire to enter the sector (DCMS, 2001). Taken in combination, these developments have led the government to accept that all young people should be offered an opportunity to ‘express and channel their creativity through a wide range of activities’ in primary, secondary and tertiary education to both support their creative aspirations (DCMS, 2001, foreword), and to maintain that higher-level qualifications are the vehicle to assist them to gain access to the C&C sector.
This paper questions the link that policymakers assume exists between qualifications and access to employment in the C&C sector. It first identifies how labour market conditions in the C&C sector do not reflect the prevailing conventional wisdom that qualifications are the ‘magic bullet’ (Keep, 1999) for securing employment. Secondly, it demonstrates how the dynamics of policy formation in the UK impose a straitjacket on the education and training (E&T) system thereby denying E&T agencies the autonomy to intervene to assist people post-qualification to gain access to the sector. Thirdly, it identifies the way that non-government agencies -’intermediary organisations’ – address this problem by providing new spaces and pedagogies to assist aspiring entrants to develop the requisite form of ‘vocational practice’ and ’social capital’ to enter the sector (Guile and Okumoto, 2008). The paper concludes that, if the government wants the C&C sector to realize the aforementioned economic and social goals, it will have to foster more ‘heterarchical’ (Jessop, 1998) governance cultures to support demand-and-supply side E&T partners to work together to develop innovative strategies to enhance entry routes into the C&C sector.
The creative and cultural industrial sector
The distinctive features of the sector
It is widely accepted that although some industries in the C&C sector, for example, art and design, broadcasting, film, music, etc, have been a longstanding feature of the UK and for that matter the American, European, and Pacific Rim economies, the process of industrial convergence, centred around the use of digital technology, which began in the late 1980s has gradually established the conditions for these sectors to be to be intertwined economically and technologically in radically new ways (Coffee, 1996; Tapscot, 1995). The C&C sector is a paradigmatic example of this type of convergence. Sometimes the sector is defined in terms of the outputs achieved by the following fifteen industries: Crafts, Design, Fashion, Film, Music, Performing Arts, Publishing, Research and Development, Software, Toys, TV and Radio and Video Games (Howkins, 2002). On other occasions it is defined in terms of the occupations that generate the new ideas that enable those industrial segments to flourish (Florida, 2002). Irrespective of which view of the C&C sector is adopted, it is generally agreed that it is now worth worldwide about $2.2 trillion and, according to the World Bank’s estimation, is growing at 5% per year (Florida, 2002). The largest market is America which is now worth in excess of $1 trillion while Britain is ranked third in the creative economy behind Japan. The UK’s creative and cultural sector generates revenues of around £115 billion and employs 1.3 million people. They contribute over £10 billion in exports and account for over 5% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and, moreover, output from these sectors grew by more than twice that of the economy as a whole in the late 1990s (DCMS, 2001).
Trans-nationally, the profile of the clusters and sectors that comprise the C&C sector are rather different from the historical profile of conventional economic sectors such as the automobile and pharmaceutical industries (Florida, 2002). The latter industries are characterised by strong national identities and vibrant corporate sectors, with strong ’strategies’, ’structures’ and ’systems’ which facilitated the manufacture of standardized products and services (Bartlett and Ghoshal, 1997). Whilst globalization has transformed competitive strategies and work organization in those industries significantly, they still tend to be involved with large-scale production. In contrast, the profile and structure of the C&C is characterised by a mix of a small number of global corporations and national organizations and a very large number of SMEs and freelance work, which is concentrated in specific regions, and who continually form value chains and networks, often for a short duration, to develop a continual flow of new products or services (Florida, 2002).
Furthermore, unlike industrial sectors such as the automobile, engineering and medical sectors which have historically been characterized by very strong ‘occupational labour markets’ (OLMs) and firm-specific ‘internal labour markets’ (FILMs) (Ashton, 1995), the creative and cultural sector is characterised predominantly by ‘external labour markets’ (ELMs). These labour markets function in rather different ways from one another. OLMs enable new entrants to be trained in a range of skills which provide competence in specific occupations. This process of occupational socialization results in the development of an identification with an occupation, for example, engineer, nurse, mechanic, as well as a ’skill base’ that can be enhanced through further training within firms. FILMs provide a series of job or career ladders which, following further training, enable young employees to be promoted and to progress within an organization.
These labour market conditions are only really found in those segments of the C&C sector which have developed equivalent professional identities and education and training traditions, for example, broadcasting and printing, although even here OLMs are no longer as an entrenched feature of these industries as they were in the 196/7/80s (Sutton Trust, 2006). In the main, large swathes of the C&C sector are characterized by ELMs. These markets are formed where the buying and selling of labour is not linked to jobs which form part of a FILM or a long standing and clearly defined OLM. Movement of labour in ELMs is determined by the price attached to the job and/or contract on offer and the requirements of the individual concerned and such jobs/contracts in the creative and cultural industries tend to run the gamut from high to low skill. Traditionally, ELMs were seen as constituting the ’secondary labour market’ and labour market economists tended to treat them as less desirable work contexts for young people than OLMs and FILMs because they did not offer the same form of employment protection and structured opportunities for development (Ashton, 1995, p15).
The impact of globalization, new forms of work and out-sourcing has, however, profoundly increased the prevalence of ELMs within the UK economy in general (Ashton, 1995) and in the creative and cultural sector in particular (Bilton, 2007), with the result that even organizations such as the BBC, which in the past offered its employees permanent contracts, is now inclined to place new recruits on short-term and temporary contracts. The net effect has been the emergence of less structured careers and greater economic uncertainty. Marsden (2008) has characterized this shift from OLMs to ELMs as the introduction of a ‘tournament’ culture in the C&C sector. By this he means aspiring entrants are prepared to seek out a mix of unpaid internships and/or work experiences and tolerate the uncertainties of low-paid freelance work, in the hope that it will enable them to develop the appropriate mix of vocational practice and social capital to secure either a permanent position or longer contracts and better pay as a freelance worker.
Government policy for education and training
The national policy cycle and its implications for E&T policy
The UK’s national policy cycle has been predicated since the late 1980s on a ‘cycle of state intervention’ (Keep, 2006). Both the previous Conservative and New Labour administrations have ascribed a centrality to upskilling that is not shared by other actors, particularly employers, and which render all assumed stakeholders in the upskilling process, for example, educational institutions, Local Learning and Skills Councils (LLSCs), merely as delivery agents for national policy, rather than active contributors to the formulation of public policy. To realise this upskilling agenda, successive governments have engulfed the E&T system with an escalating series of policy dictums which they are obligated to address. These supply-side measures and levers, which reflect the well-established belief amongst policy makers in the efficacy of centrally imposed planning regimes, specify targets, explicitly interface funding, with targets, and severely restrict the scope for any discussion of the direction of policy (Keep, 2006).
The net effect has been to produce a crippling paradox. On the one hand, the UK government’s commitment to free-market neo-liberal policies renders unavailable the potential policy interventions used in other countries – for example, training levies, strong trade unions and statutory rights to collective bargaining on skills, strong forms of social partnership – or a targeted industrial policy to support high skill sectors. On the other hand, the government’s concern to micro-manage all aspects of E&T policy predisposes SSCs and LLSCs to work with the DCSFs to realize national E&T targets by allocating funding in line with those targets, thereby denying them the opportunity to sponsor initiatives which might offer an alternative vision and set of practical measures to facilitate access to the labour market.
This mismatch between demand and supply of E&T has a number of unintended consequences. At present, although the national policy rhetoric constantly affirms the centrality of ‘choice’ and ‘flexibility’ if the UK is to respond to the demands of the knowledge economy, E&T policy is tightly circumscribed by policymakers assumptions there are clear and functioning OLMs and FILMs in all areas of the UK economy whose needs can be met through the creation of sector skills agreements and qualification blueprints. As a consequence, all that the government’s much vaunted rhetoric of choice and flexibility amounts to is an opportunity for the demand-side to tailor pre-given blueprints to reflect their needs. Moreover, when the government encounters opposition to or a reluctance to go along with its E&T agenda, it rarely pauses to consider whether policy is correct for all industrial sectors. Instead, the government tries to realize its goals by offering a limited number of financial inducements, the form of a public subsidy for E&T programmes such as the AAP and task-specific adult training to employers in an attempt to secure greater employer investment in training (Keep, 2006). Consequently, the above labour market assumptions and ideological no-go-zones mean that the UK policy severely restricts stakeholders’ scope to experiment or innovate in relation to their perception of their needs.
Operating within this framework, New Labour’s rallying cry to E&T stakeholders has been that policy must intertwine competitiveness and social inclusion on the grounds that education is the best policy to support employability in, and growth of, the knowledge economy (Lauder, 2004). The emphasis in the first decade of educational policy from 1997 to 2007 fell upon making the supply-side more responsive to government priorities. Firstly, universities were encouraged to address social exclusion by widening participation so as to attract non-traditional learners, for example, learners whose families have little or no previous experience of university study, into HE, rather than to target measures to facilitate access into specific subjects or occupational sectors. Broadly speaking, the widening participation initiatives have been fairly successful in achieving their goals, although non-traditional access tends to have been skewed towards ‘new’ rather than ‘Russell Group’ universities (Burke, 2000). Moreover, new vocational qualifications such as the Foundation Degree (FD) were introduced to address perceived skill deficits at intermediate (associate professional and technical) level and also as a strategy to help the Government to meet its target of ensuring that at least 50% of the population entered HE (DfEs, 2003). FDs have proved to be an effective strategy for ‘credentialising’ high volumes of experienced workers’ knowledge and skill in the public sector (Gallagher and Reeves 2006), and a flexible framework for employers to align degrees more closely to niche needs in the private sector (Evans et al, forthcoming).
Secondly, the government has forced (and continues to force as the announcement on 7.1.2009 demonstrates) the Local Learning and Skills Councils (LLSCs) to present the Apprenticeship/Advanced Apprenticeship Programme (AAP) as a vehicle to attract those young people not proceeding into further and higher education, whom the government perceives to be vulnerable to social and economic exclusion. In this respect, the AAP has become a strategy to secure volumes, in terms of apprentice numbers and participating sectors, rather than on skill formation in those sectors committed to securing economic growth (Fuller and Unwin, 2003). In the past, ‘apprenticeships were demand rather than supply-led. Employers decided when and if they needed apprentices’ (Fuller and Unwin, 2003b). Thus, apprenticeship was very responsive to labour market demand. In contrast, at the present time the prevailing orthodoxy of centrally imposed planning regimes and national targets for education and training, coupled with the nexus of quangos, for example, Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) with responsibility for devising sector skills agreements to deliver those targets and whose livelihood depends on meeting their target quotas, serves to underpin a decidedly supply-side conception of E&T. This has a number of pernicious effects as regards apprenticeship: most employers, despite having a degree of representation on the boards of SSCs and LSCs, and particularly employers in the C&C sector, rarely feel any particular ownership of apprenticeships (Fuller and Unwin, 2003a; Hutton, 2006); and the hands of the SSCs and LSCs are tied as regards financially supporting any new initiatives for learning and development that do not directly support government targets for education and training or their own financial position.
The publication of the Leitch Report (2006), however, inaugurated a shift away from a concern for, on the one hand, incentivising and pressurising the supply-side to respond to government targets and, on the other hand, encouraging individuals to invest in their own training and development. These foci were replaced by a concern to put employers in the driving seat through the Train to Gain initiative and by enhancing the role of the SSCs in order to make the E&T system more demand rather than supply-led (Delorenzi, 2007). Specifically, adult learning policy is now focused on two Public Service Agreements (PSAs) targets – to increase the number of people with basic skills, and to increase the number with level 2 qualifications. Whilst the equity and social justice arguments that underpin a concern for increasing the proportion of the population that have basic skills and hold Level 2 qualifications are unquestionable, the Leitch Report perpetuates the straitjacket that the government has imposed on the E&T system. It fails to acknowledge that the most effective strategy for enhancing regional and national competitiveness is to support adults who already hold Level 3 qualifications to broaden the base of their expertise (Delorenzi, 2007) and that this frequently requires access to short un-accredited provision (Mason, 2008).
The ‘cycle of intervention’ and its implications for the C&C sector
Despite the shift to demand-led E&T that Leitch purportedly inaugurated, the direction of educational policy for the C&C sector continues to remain firmly under the hand of the government. This is, in part, because SSCs and LLSCs in general, and in the C&C sector specifically, perceive that their primary purpose is to function as a delivery agent for government policy, rather than an institutional tier capable of mediating between central government and other groups in the E&T system or even a bulwark against the arms of Whitehall. It is also in part because both organisations are subject to the constantly changing direction and priorities of national E&T policy. This state of affairs is clearly evident from the way in which Skillset, who represents broadcasting, film, video and multimedia, and Creative and Cultural Skills (C&CS), who represent advertising, crafts, cultural heritage, design, music, performing, literary and visual arts, have either responded to their E&T remits or have in the case of HE been affected by other aspects of policy.
In the case of HE, C&C-related degrees have been growing annually since 1994 and resulted in a 55% increase in enrolments in creative and art and design subject areas by 2005 (Universities UK, 2005). Moreover, this growth continues independent of any action on behalf of either of Skillset or C&CS. This is partly because universities have or have established strong links with the C&C sector and therefore have been able to identify/respond to emerging demands. Nevertheless, despite universities’ close links with the C&C sector, studying for a C&C-related degree rarely provides an expectation or understanding of what is required in vocational contexts (Raffo et al, 2000). Hence many graduates with C&C degrees have a post-graduation ‘vocational need’: to acquire the ‘vocational practice’, that is the mix of knowledge, skill and judgement, employers are looking for, via a mix of unpaid internships, work placements, etc (Guile, 2009).
The one, albeit small, area of influence SSCs have in relation to HE is with respect to the design of FDs. Here some very successful, albeit very low volume, FDs have been designed, for example, Skillset and the London College of Communication’s FD in Media Practice. This FD has a strong track record of assisting new entrants and ‘career switchers’ to gain access to their desired niche in the C&C sector (Evans et al forthcoming). The FD’s success is due to its ability to offer learners work placements in the heart of the UK’s C&C sector. This assists them to develop not only their vocational practice, but also the social capital in the form of a network of contacts who might offer them or recommend them for contract/project-based employment.
In the case of apprenticeship, Skillset and C&CS are struggling to persuade employers to participate in the AAP. The C&C sector lags significantly behind traditional sectors associated with apprenticeship such as Engineering, Manufacturing and Construction as well as other non-traditional sectors such as Business Administration. There was not one C&C industry in the list of the ‘top ten’ participants in the AAP (Fuller and Unwin, 2003) and this situation has not subsequently improved; moreover, even in the list of the ‘top forty’ sectors where apprentices begin at age 18 and over, the C&C sector is only represented by industries which have either historically been characterized by a combination of strong OLMs and FILMs, for example, broadcasting and newspapers or recent high growth sectors such as IT where certain segments have developed fairly robust OLMs and FILMs over the last two decades.
This is partly because the flexible blueprints and the provision of a public subsidy has failed to encourage participation in the AAP on behalf of those sectors that are characterized by a high proportion of SMEs, very strong ELMs, and little history of involvement in nationally accredited apprenticeship programmes such as Art and Design, Film, Fashion, Film, Music, New Media, Performing Arts, etc. SMEs are reluctant to participate in the AAP because firstly, they lack the financial and human resources to be convinced that they would benefit from participating in the AAP (Hutton, 2006). Secondly, the mandatory qualification outcomes in the blueprint for AAP – NVQs, Technical Certificates and Key Skills – are perceived in the sector as serving ‘educational’ goals because they are promoted by the DCSF to enhance academic progression, rather than attempts to develop sectorally-relevant vocational knowledge and skill (Guile and Okumoto, 2007). Thirdly, the onus from central government on SSCs and LLSCs to secure high volumes and to roll out apprenticeship frameworks nationally severely inhibits them from supporting employers’ demands for bespoke apprenticeships. SSCs are reluctant therefore to invest in such schemes because they are not guaranteed to offer a sufficient return on the investment when it comes to achieving AAP targets. As a consequence, it took over four years, for example, for the first ever Advanced Apprenticeship in Media Production, which was developed by Skillset in collaboration with the BBC, North West Vision and Media and the LSC, to be launched (Damners, 2008).
Skillset and C&CS have both supported the development of the first creative and cultural Diploma. This is a new qualification that was launched in September 2008. Its aim is to promote diversity, opportunity and inclusion by offering pathways to support learners to enter occupational sectors or progress into HE, including work-related learning opportunities (Huddlestone, 2008). The Diploma in Creative and Media (DCM) has therefore to square the government’s circle of developing vocationally relevant skills and positioning learners to progress at some point in the future into HE. Although it is too soon to judge on the basis of any empirical evidence, the exigencies of the C&C labour market described in the previous section suggest that achieving this goal is a tall order. The DCM promotes the impression that intermediate-level qualifications are the stepping-stone to employment in the C&C sector. Yet, it is clear that not only is access to the C&C sector difficult for people who hold a degree, but also difficult to sustain a career in the sector (Galloway et al, 2006; Lindley and Galloway, 2005; Guile and Okumoto, 2006). For this reason, graduates and recent entrants often resort to ‘multiple job holding’ to supplement their income stream whilst they break in or establish themselves in their chosen niche (Baines and Robson 1999; Creigh-Tyte and Thomas 1999). Thus, Skillset and C&CS run the risk of inadvertently increasing social frustration rather than assisting young people to achieve their social aspirations, as young people discover that DCM does not necessarily constitute a qualification to secure their employment in the C&C sector.
The root of the problem that Skillset and C&CS jointly face is the assumed link that the government believes exists between qualifications and access to the labour market. This is predicated on a notion that there are functioning OLMs and FILMs in the C&C sector, that these labour markets will channel the flow of highly qualified students towards their preferred occupational destinations, and that employers will use qualifications as a proxy measure for vocational practice in the recruitment process (Guile, 2009). These assumptions are, s we have seen, wide of the mark and, as a consequence, Skillset and C&CS’s efforts to support aspiring entrants to gain access to the C&C sector are floundering.
New spaces, pedagogies and expertise
Given this difficulty, aspiring entrants have recourse to two main strategies to gain access to the sector: to exercise their own agency and identify and negotiate internships and work placement to develop their vocational practice and social capital, or to participate in the development activities that ‘intermediary agencies’ offer (Guile and Okumoto, forthcoming). These agencies have grown in number over the last decade as it has become apparent that aspiring entrants require help post-graduation to realise their ambitions (Guile and Okumoto, forthcoming). The term intermediary agencies encompass a diverse range of organisations. Some are found in (i) the formal education sector, for example, education-industry liaison units in universities (ii) the not-for-profit sector, private companies with a sectoral specialization, and possibly some industry funding, providing a range of learning and development programmes for aspiring entrants and longstanding members of their field (iii) the non-formal sector, colleges that do not receive statutory funding, and (iv) the public sector, for example, local government funded community-liaison agencies.
Intermediary agencies are rather different from traditional forms of community education (CE) that is usually delivered by cohorts of trained educators employed by local authorities (Tett, 2002). In contrast, intermediary agencies attempt to co-ordinate segments of the labour market by acting as catalysts to bring conglomerates, SMEs, freelancers and networks together to forge partnerships. The aim of these partnerships is two-fold: to assist aspiring entrants to supplement their qualifications or prior experience to develop the forms of vocational practice and social capital that will help them enter the creative industries, and to increase the flow of experienced people into the sector. Over the last decade, they have achieved this goal by:
- securing funds from sources such as the European Union, UK government departments, charitable foundations and the private sector to provide new spaces for learning. These can include (i) the provision of short courses that usually do not result in a recognized qualification (ii) offering bursaries/access to master classes, and (iii) negotiating internships/work placements with companies
- employing experienced professionals such as tutors/mentors to support aspiring entrants in ways that are appropriate to the needs of the sector
- working closely with employers and educational institutions to design innovative forms of education and training that address pressing skill needs.
The next section of the paper illustrates the vital contributions that intermediary organisations make by summarising research from four case studies undertaken as part of The Last Mile Project (Guile, 2006). This was a three-year project funded via the EU EQUAL Programme.
One example of the work of an industry-education funded intermediary agency is the Jewellery Industry Innovation Centre (JIIC). The JIIC is attached to the University of Central England, Birmingham and has a remit to provide support in research and development in the UK jewellery industry. The jewellery industry presents aspiring entrants with a very specific kind of challenge. Much of this sector depends upon a value network of ‘horizontal’ collaboration between SMEs and freelancers who create new products and services, and ‘vertical’ collaboration between large firms who act as suppliers and distributors (Bilton, 2007). This generates a pattern of economic activity based on local ties where SMEs and freelancers are committed to the creation of new jewellery products and the larger firms are concerned with their manufacture and distribution.
Working in partnership with the Innovation Unit (IU), part of Birmingham City Council’s Economic and Development Department, and funds secured from the European Social Fund, the JIIC designed a new un-accredited project – the Design Work Placement (DWP) Project. This project ran for six months and based on a three-way partnership (a) participating manufacturers gave recently qualified jewellers an opportunity to develop a new range of commercial products based on their research because they had faith in the JIIC’s track record in identifying new talent (b) recently qualified jewellers worked for a small bursary in order to learn how to incubate (ie create, cost, and monitor the fabrication of their designs) because they appreciated that this would provide an invaluable opportunity to develop their vocational practice and their social capital within the sector, and (c) the JIIC acted as project managers and mentors for the participant jewellers (Guile and Okumoto 2008).
The scheme involved an iterative mix of learning strategies. The JIIC ran workshops to support the recently qualified jewellers to develop an industry-relevant approach to designing new jewellery collections. It introduced them to more commercially-orientated methods of working, encouraging them to attune themselves more to the way in which cultural trends influence how people incorporate jewellery into their fashion style, supported the process through one-to-one mentoring, and ran showcasing events with industry representatives for the participants at the end of the project. The jewellery companies provided the participating jewellers with, on the one hand, very demanding commercial projects, for example, graduates enrolled on jewellery degrees usually have a whole term to produce the final design for their degree whereas the company expected forty new designs to be produced within twelve weeks, which the companies expected to be manufactured within the next twelve weeks; and, on the other hand, opportunities to become familiar with up-to-date techniques of production that they had never encountered in college and to participate in production planning meetings. The aspiring jewellers had to learn to take advantage of this mix of formal pedagogic strategies and workplace-generated pedagogic strategies in order to formulate and instantiate their designs.
In addition to achieving its stipulated goal of assisting the participating companies to enhance their product ranges and the participating jewellers to develop their vocational practice, the DWP also achieved another goal. It assisted the participating jewellers to decide whether to remain a jewellery designer and as a consequence become a freelance worker, or to enter management within a jewellery company and therefore be in a better position to secure a full-time position. Moreover, the jewellers who took the former decision recognised that life as a freelancer required them to develop what has been referred to as ‘moebius-strip’ expertise (Guile, 2007), that is the entrepreneurial expertise to demonstrate to national and international jewellery companies and journalists that they are sufficiently versatile to use their expertise to meet the requirements of any contract.
The work of Slough Borough Council’s Arts Development Team (ADT), which is a regional arts partnership receiving some core funding from the local council to ensure that the arts in Slough have the best grounding, resources and connections, is an excellent example of how the networking undertaken by intermediary agencies can result in innovative strategies to facilitate access into the C&C sector. Because the UK’s four largest film studios are located within fifteen minutes of Slough, Creative Academy (CA), one of ADT’s partners, prioritized film as an industrial sector where they were keen to secure employer support to assist young people from the Slough area to gain access to the industry. This led George Kirkham, Director of CA, to meet Carlo Dusi, Director of Aria Films, and negotiate work placements for ten aspiring entrants on Carlo’s forthcoming production.
Carlo was responsive to George’s pitch for work placements because he was aware that ‘the film production community is not a nurturing one’ and that it is difficult ‘to establish a career in the industry unless one can find an opportunity to work within the industry (Guile and Okumoto forthcoming). The aim of the partnership between Aria and CA was to enable people with Level 3/4 qualifications in a film-related field, for example, Special Effects, Make-up Design or Television and Production, or people who had experience of working in television and/or on the production of advertisements, to move into the film industry. To realize this goal, Carlo offered them a two-week work placement on either the ’shoot’ or the post-production for the film he was producing Kill Kill Faster Faster. The film was shot in Rotterdam for six weeks in June/July 2006 with the budget of £3.7 million. Seven participants undertook technical positions in Rotterdam, while three were involved in post-production work in London once the filming was complete.
Given that Carlos’s film crew had no previous experience of supporting interns on a film shoot and the participants equally lacked any experience of such work, George and Carlo devised a multi-faceted system to support both parties. Prior to the Rotterdam shoot, the CA ran a series of workshops to support the participants in understanding the aims of the scheme, and prepared for their roles through one-to-one meetings with experienced professionals in the field of lighting, filming, sound, etc. During the shooting, the CA offered on-site mentoring support by visiting the participants and helping to iron out any misunderstandings and/or difficulties that arose. Post-placement, the CA arranged for information on seminars, events and job vacancies to be sent to the interns. Prior to the participants arriving in Rotterdam, Carlo briefed the experienced technical staff that he had recruited for the film as regards his rationale for agreeing to provide work placements, explained his expectations of the interns’ ‘legitimate peripheral participation’ role, and the technical staff’s coaching and modeling role. Subsequently, he split his time between overseeing the production process and acting as the participants’ mentor throughout the shoot and post-production phases.
This work placement supported the participants in developing their vocational practice and social capital in order to be in a position for an employer to offer them a contract for their services. In the case of the former, the placement demonstrated that although film-related qualifications can provide a conceptual understanding and orientate aspiring entrants towards key issues about the history and social conventions that inform film-making, such knowledge has to be supplemented by experience of practice. This is because much of the knowledge that is an integral feature of forms of vocational practice such as sound, lighting, direction, is invested in action, and involves developing the form of judgement that are inimical to professional performance. In the case of the latter, the opportunity to hear experienced professionals’ ‘war stories’ about which film events to attend and which networks to join, enabled participants to realised the link between vocational practice, social capital and moebius-strip expertise: the latter provides the network that may generate a demand for their services providing they are perceived as someone who can creatively deploy their expertise in a range of situations.
One example of the work of a non-formal intermediary agency is WAC Performing Arts and Media College. WAC specialises in the field of performing arts and raises its income from a mix of EU, Local Learning and Skills Council, and industry sources of funding. In recognition that many of its graduates, who were active in the field of world arts, were unable to supplement their freelance income streams through securing employment as a teacher/teaching assistant because they lacked a recognized qualification, WAC decided to create a degree in world art forms. To do so, WAC turned to the framework provided by Foundation Degrees (FD).
WAC drew on its accumulated experience in running non-accredited courses and designed the FD around an integrated learning-teaching curriculum (Guile and Okumoto 2009). The hallmark of this curriculum was the way in which WAC mobilised its accumulated social capital (ie the number of ex-WAC graduates who were experienced professionals in the field of world arts forms) to work as teachers. Their involvement enabled participants to develop their vocational practice to industry-standards as well as to expand their network of contacts and thus position them to gain access to the performing arts’ notoriously tricky external labour markets. WAC achieved these two goals by using the expertise of its staff and ex-graduates to (i) explain the discipline-based knowledge and skill that underpins different world art forms in ways that extended their existing vocational practice and developed their professional identity and confidence (ii) provide opportunities for learners to plan and then perform in a wide range of contexts and for culturally diverse audiences. This opportunity to participate legitimately, albeit peripherally, with a range of different world art forms in authentic settings enabled participants to develop the forms of judgement that are integral to the development of their practice, and (iii) provide opportunities for learners to bridge and link their existing fledgling network to other existing and successful networks.
The wide variety of learning opportunities enabled FD participants to firstly, develop new forms of vocational practice and bridge and link their existing and new social capital in ways that could, in future, result in them being invited to contribute their specific vocational expertise to a dance, music, etc, contract that others had secured. Secondly, the diverse learning opportunities also positioned the FDs’ participants to develop the entrepreneurial expertise to start looking at themselves as not just performers searching for contracts for their specific world art expertise, but also as arts practitioners who have developed broader-based capabilities that could assist them to secure employment in art-based project management and/or community education.
Finally, the partnership between Birmingham’s Innovation Unit (IU) and the city’s Repertory Theatre (REP) provides an excellent example of how to devise an innovative project to assist aspiring entrants enter the C&C labour market. Using ESF funding, the IU and REP developed a ‘Technical Apprenticeship’ (TA) that offered eight apprentices, none of whom held a qualification above Level 3, to successfully enter the C&C sector. The Rep devised the TA outside the national blueprint for apprenticeship for two main reasons. It felt that the AAP had firstly, been designed to serve ‘educational’ goals because it is promoted by the DfES to enhance academic progression, rather than as genuine attempts to develop the sector-specific vocational knowledge and skill that they feel it is important for apprentices to develop (Guile and Okumoto 2007). Secondly, work in the theatre (and, for that matter, live events in general) is characterised by a ‘project culture’. This work context means that the AAP with its attendant package of NVQ assessment and the requirement for day-release is not a practical option, because it is utterly impracticable to release apprentices to attend courses in FE colleges or private training providers or to stop and assess apprentices’ competence in the middle of a production. To do so would deny the apprentices the opportunity to develop key aspects of vocational practice which are unlikely to surface again within the life span of a production.
To realize its vision of creating a modern culturally diverse and inclusive traditional craft apprenticeship which reflects the realities of the new work context in which it operates, the Rep appointed a Project Coordinator, John Pitt, who had worked as Production Manager previously in the Rep as well as having extensive knowledge and experience in training and development. Working with the Technical Heads of Department (THDs), for example, Lighting, Costume, Wigs, Sound, etc, John designed an apprenticeship that immersed apprentices in the ‘work flow’ of the Rep theatre life so they are involved in every stage of mounting a production. John negotiated with the THDs for the apprentices to have the opportunity to be: (i) ‘legitimate peripheral participants’ (Lave and Wenger, 1991) within their department, that is, activity engaged with the production process and supported in situ by modeling and demonstration activities in order to develop their technical expertise, and (ii) ‘boundary crossers’ (Tuomi-Gröhn and Engeström, 2003) between departments, that is, provided with opportunities to grasp the connections between different forms of vocational practice that exist within the Rep and how they all contribute to the success of a performance.
John also arranged for the apprentices to enhance their on-the-job learning in the down-time between productions by offering them access to a bespoke curriculum consisting of a mix of generic knowledge and skill about the process of production, and occupationally-specific knowledge and skill relating to their technical specialism. Furthermore a programme of limited work rotation and visits to other theatres and events across the country were arranged. These experiences enabled the apprentices to locate their understanding of vocational practice in a wider context and lay the foundation for them to transfer their knowledge and skill into other theatrical contexts.
The Rep’s model of apprenticeship supported the apprentices’ skill formation and transfer because it not only developed distinctive forms of occupationally-specific knowledge and skill which are in short supply and hence for which there is a high demand in the global C&C economy, but it also developed their social capital and entrepreneurial ability. Recognising that the UK’s national system of repertory theatres is characterised by the type of strong mutually self-supporting networks, characterised by high levels of trust amongst all levels of specialism and seniority, the Rep bridged and linked their apprentices into as many of these networks as possible. They did so in the knowledge that, on the one hand, these networks would accept that an apprentice ‘trained’ at Birmingham Rep was well trained and sufficiently experienced to be offered a contract for their services; and, on the other hand, that the apprentices had acquired the ability to demonstrate to prospective employers that they were sufficiently versatile to operate effectively in a range of settings, for example, theatres, television studios and live events.
Coda to the Case Studies: all the participants are now active in the C&C sector with contracts for their services.
Learning to work in the C&C sector: future challenges
The future context
The trend away from OLMs and FILMs and towards ELMs and ‘tournament’ competitions is likely to continue rather than diminish, for a number of reasons, over the next ten years. Firstly, this trend, although not necessarily as pronounced and entrenched in other parts of Europe, is nevertheless occurring globally throughout the C&C sector. The net effect is to position aspiring entrants to the C&C sector, as the EU commissioned report from KEA (2006) observes, as “new workers”/”new entrepreneurs”, between capital and labour because:
“The traditional categories of the “full-time job society” (“here the worker, there the employer”) no longer apply; the cultural content worker is suddenly also a (cultural) entrepreneur (without capital). In academic literature the “new worker” is described as multi-skilled, multifunctional and flexible in working time as well as often being self-employed” (KEA, 2006, p91).
Secondly, policymakers continue to affirm the importance of expanding these industries without paying any attention to labour market conditions and the way in which they inhibit people from learning to work in the C&C sector (Hesmondhalgh, forthcoming). Even the KEA (2006, p9) report that has, as we have seen above, very presciently identified the new conditions in which aspirant workers find themselves, falls back on the current European Union version of the UK conventional wisdom and argues that workers will require higher levels of knowledge and skill. Thus the report ends up perpetuating, rather than offering any fresh thinking on how to overcome, the dilemma described in this paper.
This suggests that the transition of any young people into the labour market, which many researchers had noted even before the impact of the ‘credit crunch’ had become more extended than in the post-war period during the 1990s (Evans, 2000; Chisholm, 1999), is likely to become even more extended in the future. Moreover, given the opacity of the C&C labour market and the fact that access is dependent on the development of the forms of social capital that provide people with access to the networks that gate-keep and facilitate employment in the C&C sector, it also suggests that access is likely to become even more competitive as the C&C sector gradually comes to terms with the implications of the ‘credit crunch’.
Assuming that the depiction of the above trends is correct and that the mismatch between the UK’s national policy cycle and the government’s assumptions about the role of qualifications as a proxy measure for vocational practice continues, then access to the labour market is likely to be exacerbated rather than diminished in any great respect. In the case of graduates, this is in part because the massification of higher education has generated a continual flow of graduates who are prepared, because they are financially cushioned by their families or are prepared to engage in multiple job-holding, to accept fairly insecure and temporary positions in an attempt to develop the forms of vocational practice and social capital to gain access to the C&C labour market (Oakley, 2007). In the case of students holding Level 3 qualifications, the combination of the flexible conditions of the UK labour market, coupled with employers’ preferences to recruit graduates in non-graduate roles (Mason, 2004), is exerting considerable ‘downward’ pressure on such students and has the effect of denying them access to the port-of-entry positions that would otherwise be commensurable with their qualifications and experience. Taken in combination, these developments suggest that there is likely to be an increased demand for the forms of intervention activity and provision of learning and development activities that intermediary agencies have been providing.
New principles for E&T
In light of these circumstances and irrespective of any change of government, there will have to be new direction to E&T policy if policymakers are to support aspiring entrants and career-switchers to realize their ambitions to work in the C&C sector and support the sector to continue to serve as the ‘engine’ of post-industrial growth in the UK. Based on the argument presented in this paper, this new direction presupposes a series of new principles for UK E&T policy. The principles are as follows:
1. The rebalancing of the tension between market (ie ‘demand-led) and state (ie supply-led) provision through the introduction of ‘heterarchical’ (Jessop, 1998) modes of E&T planning and delivery.
The problem generated by the state/market dichotomy in governance strategies has been widely recognized for some time. Jessop (1998, 2000) has argued that this has resulted at the macro government level in the constant substitution of one with another. He argues that rather than trying to manage the relative change between states, markets and globalization within one overall structure, what is required is the introduction of ‘new balancing points’ that enable policymakers to involve stakeholders more directly in the coordination process. Jessop offers the principle of self-organisation, in his terms’ heterarchy’, as an alternative mode of governance. From Jessop’s perspective, heterarchical governance, coupled with the autonomy at the regional level to determine how to deploy national fundings streams, offers a potential key to unlock the totality of the state/market interface at the macro-level.
There is not sufficient space here to do justice to the complexity of Jessop’s argument. I want to suggest, however, that his notion of heterarchical governance can be usefully extended to the way in which E&T policy and provision could be addressed in future in the C&C sector. This claim can be illustrated by returning to the example of Birmingham Reparatory Theatre’s Technical Apprenticeship.
It was argued earlier that in its desire to make apprenticeship part of a vocational ladder within the education and training (E&T) system, the government firstly, overlooked that (i) the primary purpose of apprenticeship is to develop vocational practice, and (ii) the project-based nature of work in much of the creative and cultural sector requires a ‘project-based’ approach to education and training and that existing arrangements and funding patterns for on-and-off-the-job training are incompatible with this type of work. Secondly, the government imposed a policy making cycle, funding constraints and targets that totally limited the scope of regional stakeholders to respond in innovative ways to their pressing needs.
If the principle of heterarchy was used to rebalance the current E&T system, this broadening of the principles of governance would offer E&T stakeholders the opportunity to ‘co-configure’ (Engeström, 2008) innovative solutions to the issue of access. In the case of the reservations expressed in the C&C sector about the AAP Blueprint, this new space could be used to enable employers, working in conjunction with intermediary agencies and Further Education Colleges, to design models of apprenticeship that actually reflect their needs. Such a development would introduce a slightly different twist to the notion of ‘employer leadership’ advocated by the Leitch Report. Instead of assuming that qualification blueprints are the definitive solution to employability in the knowledge economy and arguing that employers should take the lead over FE colleges/training providers implementing the AAP Blueprint, this broader system of E&T governance would create the conditions for employers to develop bespoke models of apprenticeship based on a clear articulation and specification of the principles of occupational skill formation and skill transfer. To ensure that employers do not interpret this new freedom as a license to create a host of new ‘restrictive’ apprenticeships (Fuller and Unwin, 2003), Local Learning and Skills Councils could be required by central government to devise regional ‘kite marking’ systems for such alternative models of apprenticeship. These systems would be based on clearly defined criteria for skill formation, skill transfer and employability so that apprentices developed the requisite form of vocational practice and social capital, thereby reassuring policymakers that the new schemes are educationally robust and offer value for money.
The introduction of these new principles of governance would also mean that E&T funding regimes for apprenticeship and other programmes would have to be re-thought. At present policymakers operate with ‘Welfarist’ notions of labour markets (ie that all employers will or can be persuaded to recruit regular numbers on an annually recurring basis), and ‘Fordist’ mechanisms to control the E&T system (ie funding FE Colleges and private training providers on the basis of enrolling ‘training volumes’ and achieving ‘training completions’). These assumptions about the operation of the labour market and this accountability and funding model is completely at odds with the growth of ELMs and project work in the C&C sector, let alone elsewhere in the economy. Heterarchical principles of governance would involve a shift away from these centrally controlled auditing and funding mechanism. Instead they would require the devolution of budgetry oversight to regional E&T stakeholders and the provision of ring-fenced budgets to support E&T innovation. These conditions would provide E&T stakeholders with the relative autonomy to design bespoke E&T solutions that reflect the needs of the C&C sector at the regional level.
2. Reconceptualising ‘vertical’ (ie education to work) and ”horizontal’ (ie work/unemployment to work) transitions as the development of vocational practice, social capital and moebius strip expertise rather than the acquisition of qualifications.
The recent debate about the role of qualifications and access to the labour market has forgotten that although qualifications are important because they are the long standing way to certify the forms of knowledge and skill students acquired in education, they do not constitute proxy measures for vocational practice, social capital or entrepreneurial ability, despite policymakers and some researchers views to the contrary. Moreover, policymakers have also failed to detect that the growth of ELMs is creating a new type of post-degree vocational need – opportunities for graduates to supplement the forms of knowledge and skill certified by qualifications with opportunities for vocational enculturation and the development of social capital and entrepreneurial ability – an issue that does not currently figure in the post-Leitch E&T agenda.
It has long been recognized that vocational practice, social capital and entrepreneurial expertise cannot be broken down into discrete units of study and taught independent of any contact with workplaces. This is not to suggest that study and simulation cannot provide a grounding and inspiration for learners, rather it is an acknowledgement that vocational practice, social capital and entrepreneurial expertise have to be developed in situ, that is in conditions of work or through the provision of opportunities to gain access to networks and specialist advice, rather than through study or simulation.
Enacting this insight, however, presupposes a further shift in the government’s E&T policy. It requires the introduction of a more multifaceted and differentiated strategy based on an explicit recognition of the different contribution that the following activities play in facilitating access to the C&C sector. They are:
- accreditation activities (ie academic or vocational qualifications)
- industry-recognised activities (ie knowledge and skill acquired from non-accredited activities such as work placements, internships, master classes)
- network activities (ie the development of a personal occupational labour market as the basis of securing contracts and the forms of entrepreneurial expertise to promote oneself in ELMs).
The first step to implement this strategy is for the government to stop predetermining the type of output (ie qualifications), the type of provider (i.e. Colleges of Further Education and accredited training providers) and the funding regime for all aspects of E&T. The second step is to relax the reigns of policy and offer all E&T stakeholders the opportunity brokered bespoke E&T solutions, for example, identifying how to incorporate, what this paper has referred to as access to industry-recognised and networked activities either as integral parts of accredited programmes (see the WAC Case Study) or as part of non-accredited programmes (see the CA and JIIC Case Studies). Because these activities develop vocational practice and social capital in a way that educational programmes in colleges and universities struggle to do so, they need to become a supplement to the national E&T framework of provision rather than a marginal, albeit highly effective, way of supporting transition into the labour market.
3. A shift from conceiving learning as consisting of the accumulation of pre-specified outcomes to seeing it as the development of judgement.
In addition to the UK’s tendency to conceive learning as consisting of the accumulation of pre-specified outcomes, the introduction of the European Qualification Framework (EQF) is resulting in pressure on educational institutions to standardise qualifications throughout Europe through the use of programme specifications and learning outcomes. This development is likely to reaffirm the idea pan-Europe that qualifications constitute a proxy measure for vocational practice and hence access to the C&C sector. This is deeply worrying because, as the case studies presented in the paper demonstrate, the knowledge associated with any field of vocational practice is always broader than any qualification. It requires opportunities for people to ‘conduct inquiries’ rather ‘rehearse procedures’ and, in the process, to develop the forms of judgement that are inimical to practice (Sennett, 2008).
What is required, therefore, is the formulation of a language of description for vocational practice that will offer researchers, policymakers and practitioners a resource to identify the different contributions that accredited, industry-recognised and network activities make to supporting vertical and horizontal transitions into the labour market. The first step towards such a language of description has already been taken (Guile, 2009). It has resulted in the formulation of three concepts of vocational practice. They are the evolutionary (ie the gradual development of a practice through individual and collective agentic activity), laterally-branching (ie the explicit use of professional/vocational field-specific forms of knowledge and skill (ie codified and non-codified) to develop a practice in ways that can be recognised in the field, and envisioning (ie inter-professional activity to envision a new form of practice).
These conceptions offer a way to capture the different modalities of practice and the forms of judgement associated with them. They could be used by E&T stakeholders to (i) identify the forms of working and learning that have to occur outside of educational institutions to facilitate their development; (ii) consider how to build strategic partnerships at the regional level to provide people with access to these forms of working and learning, and (iii) to press the case for the greater recognition for pedagogic activity within national and international E&T policy formation.
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This document has been commissioned as part of the UK Department for Children, Schools and Families’ Beyond Current Horizons project, led by Futurelab. The views expressed do not represent the policy of any Government or organisation.